The best carbon plate running shoes for your next PB attempt

These are the shoes to help you race at your best.


Whether or not you agree with them (and chances are, you do – especially if you’ve got your eye on a shiny new PB in 2024) carbon plate shoes have runners, from the amateur to the elite, hooked. And this speed-focused technology has been going from strength to strength in 2024, with some pretty exciting new releases from the likes of HokaSaucony and Nike.

Born out of the Nike Breaking 2 project in 2017, the carbon plate trainer has become a staple in the offerings of pretty much every running shoe brand, with new iterations emerging year on year.

We’ve clocked up hundreds of kilometres in a number of carbon plate shoes, to bring you our pick of the best. Shop them here, at a glance, or keep scrolling to read more.


Nike Alphafly 3


Nike Vaporfly 3


New Balance SuperComp Elite v4


Saucony Endorphin Elite


Kiprun KD900X


Adidas Adizero Adio Pro 3


Asics Metaspeed Sky Paris


Hoka Cielo X1


Brooks Hyperion Elite 4


On Cloudboom Echo 3

How does a carbon plate running shoe work?

Generally speaking, carbon plate shoes contain a combination of Pebax (or EVA) foam and, as the name suggests, a carbon fibre plate. Pebax is a highly resilient, super-light foam that returns a significant proportion of energy, giving a bouncing feeling as someone runs. The plate also has a spring function, which is thought to work in conjunction with the foam to provide propulsion.

But not all carbon plate shoes are created equal and they certainly don’t all perform the same. Not only is there the type of foam to consider (PEBA vs EVA, for example), there’s also the choice of ½ length vs full-length carbon plates to weigh up, as well as different types of upper materials, stack heights and overall rides.

Whilst carbon plate shoes will still feel bouncy on a gentle 5k plod, given that they are ultimately designed for racing, our recommendations below are based upon use at pace. Why is pace important? When you run fast (whatever fast may be to you), you run with greater efficiency and these shoes are built to enhance that efficiency, so that’s when you get the most benefit from them.

Carbon plate running shoes all sit around the 40mm stack height (the max height for a shoe stack as set by World Athletics), which is a lot of foam/shoe. This means that if you’re a minimal shoe wearer or just someone who likes to ‘feel’ the ground when running, these might not be for you, as there is a certain amount of disconnect that takes place with any larger shoe. This is not to say that you’ll be stomping around unable to feel your feet on the ground, but there is a degree of instability that comes with a larger shoe.

How we test

The shoes in this guide have been tested by a variety of runners of all shapes, sizes and abilities over a wide range of distances, but focused primarily on the marathon. We assessed the shoes for their fit, feel, cushioning, responsiveness, comfort, grip, breathability and overall performance.

The best carbon plate running shoes for 2024

the best carbon plate running shoes for 2023

BEST OVERALL: Nike Alphafly 3

Coming soon.

  • Super responsive
  • More structured and stable underfoot than previous version
  • Flawless lockdown
  • More cushioned than before
  • Still a noisy beast

Perhaps the most revered shoe on our list, this is the one if you have Kipchoge levels of expectation from your shoes. After all, these are the ones the late Kiptum wore when he set the men’s marathon world record at the Chicago Marathon in 2023.

The Alphafly 3 is a shoe that wants to go fast and show you what it’s capable of. You can really feel that propulsion and responsiveness coming from Nike’s ZoomAir pods in the forefoot, and the ride is punchy, light and, well, an absolute joy. Compared with the previous iteration, the ride feels slightly more aggressive, with more of a tippy sensation on each step. However, this just adds to the overall liveliness and enjoyment of the ride.

The challenge with the new breed of shoes with seriously stacked soles (this sneaks under the World Athletics 40mm limit for sole thickness) is that they’re a bit tippy, especially when turning corners. But, for the latest iteration, Nike has used a continuous outsole for increased stability and an all-new last (shoe mould), fleshed out around the midfoot. These changes make the shoe a lot more comfortable than the Alphafly 2, reducing rubbing through the midfoot and on the Achilles, and give you confidence rounding corners.

If you’re chasing down a PB this year, you’d be hard pushed to find better than the Alphafly 3.

Weight218g (M), 174g (W)
Stack height40mm (heel), 32mm (forefoot)
Heel-to-toe drop8mm

Nike Vaporfly 3

BEST FOR 5K/10K: Nike Vaporfly 3

  • Good breathability in the upper
  • Super lightweight
  • New lugs under forefoot for a quieter, more padded landing
  • Lack of stretch in the upper
  • Less aggressive toe off than the Vaporfly 2

Eliud Kipchoge may have worn the even-higher-spec Alphafly to break the two-hour barrier, but a glance at the sharp end of any major marathon tells you the Vaporfly is a go-to for many serious racers. And thankfully the third iteration feels just as lively and fast as the previous two. Nike has overhauled the Vaporfly from the rubber up, looking to make it the lightest yet.

One attempt to shave weight came in the midsole shaping. The foam is still the same ZoomX that delivers top-of-the-line energy return, but a cutout on the lateral sidewall – your foot doesn’t need support there – and a small channel under the midfoot reduces material. Gone too is the big, flat slab of rubber under the forefoot, replaced with a web of diamond shaped lugs – think waffle sole, rotated 45 degrees, with cutouts. Our testers reported the shoes felt planted in dry conditions, and the new construction eliminates the loud, slappy sensation found in almost all the new super shoes.

One gripe: the Flyknit upper is extremely thin and breathable, but it doesn’t stretch at all so take care not to lace too tightly or you can suffer pressure on the tops of your feet.

Weight198g (M), 164g (W)
Stack height40mm (heel), 32mm (forefoot)
Heel-to-toe drop8mm

BEST NEW BALANCE RACE SHOE: New Balance SuperComp Elite v4

  • Stable, despite high stack
  • Soft underfoot
  • Improved upper
  • Snappier and more propulsive than v3
  • Tongue prone to folding over
  • Heel counter may irritate Achilles

A light and propulsive shoe designed for long distance races, the SC Elite V4 is a totally different shoe compared with its predecessor.

While the v3 always felt speedy, ‘comfort’ was one of the first words that sprung to mind while running in it. A large part of this came from the stretchy synthetic knit upper and the fact that the carbon plate seemed relatively forgiving compared to other super shoes. With the v4, what we get is much more of that classic ‘super shoe’ feeling. It’s not unstable, uncomfortable or aggressive by any means – in fact, it’s still a pretty accommodating shoe compared to others in this guide – but it’s no longer a shoe you can get away with wearing for the bulk of your training runs.

The new PEBA midsole feels instantly lighter and more responsive. This is also thanks to an updated carbon fibre plate design, which increases forefoot stiffness. The new FantomFit upper is a vast improvement on the previous knit design, too, providing a much better midfoot lockdown. The tongue feels a little ‘sloppy’, though, and isn’t gusseted, which means it moves around a bit.

The heel counter is more traditional, losing that iconic high curve design that’s used across most of the FuelCell line. Some testers have experienced Achilles irritation as a result, although this wasn’t universal across the board.

Weight237g (M), 204g (W)
Stack height40mm (heel) / 36mm (forefoot)
Heel-to-toe drop6mm

BEST SAUCONY RACE SHOE: Saucony Endorphin Elite

  • New Pwrrun HG midsole foam
  • Slotted, fork-shaped carbon fibre plate provides aggressive toe-off
  • Extremely fast
  • Narrow toe box
  • Outsole prone to wear

To commemorate turning 125 this year, Saucony launched its fastest ever racing shoe: the Endorphin Elite. As the ‘elite’ signals, this is the pair you pull out with the intention of maxing your performance on race day. Saucony’s metabolic testing on athletes running at varying speeds found that in terms of energy efficiency from 5K to marathon pace, the athletes – not all of them elites – had better running economy wearing the Elite compared to running in other Saucony models.

That efficiency comes in part from a new foam, Pwrrun HG (‘highest grade’). In lab testing, Saucony found it outperformed the brand’s other foams on energy return. Besides energetic foam, any decent super shoe needs a carbon-fibre plate and the Elite’s is slotted and shaped like a fork to provide aggressive toe-off. The result is a shoe that testers felt finally feels like a true equal to Nike’s Alphafly and Vaporfly when it comes to all-out speed.

Like Saucony’s other racing models, the Endorphin Pro+ and Endorphin Pro 3, the Elite’s propulsive ride demands that you run faster. Testers reported that easy six kilometre runs transformed into marathon-paced long runs and the ‘indisputable bounce’ had them eyeing up extra races.

Weight204g (M), 185g (W)
Heel/toe drop8mm
Stack height39.5mm (heel), 31.5mm (forefoot)


  • Very lightweight
  • Offers good stability, particularly on corners
  • Excellent grip in varied conditions
  • A firmer ride
  • Less energy returned to runner compared to competitors

The specialist running brand of the sports retailer Decathlon, Kiprun has established itself as a maker of quality running shoes at great value prices. And as its first carbon-fibre plate shoe, the KD900X certainly has a compelling USP – to offer super shoe benefits at around half the typical cost. At first glance, all the key ingredients are here – it’s light, with a Pebax-based midsole foam, and the Vaporfly-style upper is minimalist to cut down on weight, with a thin tongue and a couple of internal foam pads to act as a heel counter. But on the run, while it undoubtedly feels light, you don’t get the recognisable springiness of the best carbon shoes, and the ride is on the firmer side.

Kiprun say the shoe is more durable – it was run in for 1,500km by one of its testers – but there’s no way of testing this claim in the short term. On the plus side, the shoe feels stable and sure-footed even on cambered surfaces and when cornering, a feeling enhanced by the excellent grip in all conditions. But ultimately, while it’s a decent lightweight option for speed sessions or race day, those looking for super shoe-type energy return should probably look elsewhere.

Weight225g (M), 182g (W)
Heel/toe drop8mm
Stack height37mm (heel), 29mm (forefoot)

BEST ADIDAS RACE SHOE: Adidas Adizero Adio Pro 3

  • Super responsive
  • Lightstrike foam is well cushioned
  • Excellent for running fast
  • Very thin upper can cause some friction
  • Initially fiddly to lock down

If major races won is a barometer of how good a shoe is, since it first appeared, the Adizero Adios Pro 3 has helped a number of elites to the top step of the podium.

This latest version is as fast as ever, with no carbon plate as such in the midsole, but five energy rods (mimicking the five metatarsal bones of the foot). These make the shoe lighter and less ‘slappy’ and also provide some stabilisation to counterbalance the super-bouncy Lightstrike foam.

The upper is breathable but very thin and, as a result, our tester, who has bunions, found the eyelets rubbed the bone at the base of her big toe when she tested these during the recent half marathon, so they might not be the best fit for runners with bunions.

Stack height39.5mm (heel), 33mm (forefoot)
Heel/toe drop6.5mm

BEST ASICS RACE SHOE: Asics Metaspeed Sky Paris

The Asics Metaspeed Sky Paris is the successor to the Metaspeed Sky+, a well regarded super shoe worn by the likes of Eilish McColgan on her way to breaking various British records over the past couple of years. It’s designed for what Asics calls ‘stride runners’, namely those that have a longer, bouncier stride and a predisposition to land on their forefoot or midfoot rather than heel. There’s an alternative option, the Asics Metaspeed Edge Paris, for what Asics calls ‘cadence runners’; those with more of a high-cadence, shuffling style.

At 188g in a UK size 9, it’s impossibly light, thanks to the Turbo FlyteFoam+ midsole, which is lighter, bouncier and more comfortable. Combined with a slightly wider carbon plate, it creates a wonderfully responsive ride. At quicker paces, the shoe comes alive and you get a real sense of propulsion – more so than in its predecessor.

Like many other super shoes, there’s a bit of lateral instability (i.e. sideways wobble), particularly at slower paces. Similar to when wearing the Metaspeed Sky+, our tester felt a little bit of pressure on the top part of their toes while running at faster paces. That’s not an issue with the length of the shoe – which fits true to size – more to do with the ‘ceiling’ of the forefoot, which may feel a bit low to some. It’s only a minor issue, though, and may not prove an issue for the majority of runners.

Either way, it’s safe to say that Asics now has a super shoe to rival the very best.

Weight188g (UK size 9)
Stack height39.5mm (heel), 34.5mm (forefoot)
Heel-to-toe dorp5mm


  • Explosive ride
  • Performs well regardless of your running style
  • Upper creates fantastic lockdown
  • Can be fiddly to put on
  • May be too aggressive for some

Hoka postponed liftoff on a Rocket X3 and chose the new model route instead, reaching for the sky with the Cielo X1. The shoe sets out to sculpt an even more aggressive forefoot rocker to amp up the speed and create an explosive ride — and the results speak for themselves, which is often why this shoe is sold out on Hoka’s website.

‘As soon as I put them on I noticed how the sole rocks you onto your forefoot,’ said one tester. ‘I continued to notice this on my run — the shoes really kept me moving, pushed me onto my toes, and seemed to shift the effort to my quads.’

While most other racing shoes have a similar feeling when you lean forward — an aggressive toe-off angle — the Cielos have an aggressive angle in the rearfoot, too. It means on every stride, regardless of where you land, your foot strike will roll off the ground.

Putting on the shoe was the only beef testers had. The Cielo X1 has a rather snug — but cozy— ankle collar, making it a struggle to pull on. However, the overall fit is accommodating for wide feet.

Weight263g (M), 209g (W6)
Stack heightHeel: 37mm (W), 39mm (M), Forefoot: 30mm (W), 32mm (M)
Heel-to-toe drop7mm

BEST BROOKS RACE SHOE: Brooks Hyperion Elite 4

  • Feels safe and sturdy
  • Bouncy ride
  • Plenty of cushioning
  • Less propulsive than other super shoes
  • May be too roomy for narrow feet

Since Des Linden won the Boston Marathon in a prototype of the first shoe, the Hyperion Elite has always had the performance kudos of a carbon shoe but initially failed to deliver (firm ride, short self-life etc).

For version 4, however, the rule book has been ripped up entirely.

There’s a new QuicKnit upper: an elastic fabric that offers just the right amount of support combined with breathability. There’s also new padding in the heel and collar which adds an extra level of comfort.

The midsole features new DNA Flash v2 supercritical nitrogen-infused foam. It may not roll off the tongue, but it does help you to roll through your feet with more speed as you run. This, combined with the new full-length SpeedVault Race+ carbon plate, meant one tester described the Hyperion Elite 4 as ‘bouncy, supportive and plush’.

That being said, the toe-off isn’t quite as snappy or aggressive as the Nike Alphafly 3, Adidas Adios Pro 3 or Saucony Endorphin Elite. However, it is a brilliant choice for runners in search of a safer, sturdier super shoe for races or harder sessions.

Weight221.1g (size 7)
Heel-to-toe drop8mm
Stack height40mm (heel), 32mm (forefoot)


  • Full-length carbon speedboard
  • Incredibly lightweight
  • Comfortable heel counter and padded tongue
  • Slightly firmer ride
  • Need to hit fast paces to get energy return

The Cloudboom Echo 3 is On Running’s high-performance carbon-plated shoe – designed for race day. It features On’s signature CloudTec technology, a full-length carbon speedboard and new Helion HP hyperfoam.

Weighing in at 215g, there’s no denying it’s a lightweight shoe, but the ride is definitely on the firmer side and lacks the level of cushioning you’ll find in the likes of the Alphalfy. In fact, one of our team described it as feeling ‘more akin to that of a racing flat’ and to get the most out of it, you have to really hit race paces – the more you put in, the greater the energy return and sense of propulsion.

Of course, if you’re already a fan of On Running, then the shoe’s high-quality materials and advanced design make it worth the investment, but if you’re after something that feels a little softer and more cushioned, then perhaps steer your gaze towards New Balance’s FuelCell SC Elite v3 instead.

Weight215g (M), 188g (W)
Stack height37mm (heel), 28mm (forefoot)
Heel/toe drop9mm

Under Armour Velociti Elite 2

BEST UNDER ARMOUR RACE SHOE: Under Armour Velociti Elite 2

Under Armour knew its athletes weren’t as well equipped as their competitors on race day— and that needed to change quickly. So UA fast-tracked the Flow Velociti Elite, developing its first super shoe within a year, and starting work on this improved second version.

The original had the nostalgic feel of a racing flat from back when super shoes weren’t skyscraper-high. With the second iteration, UA bumped up the stack height from 36mm in the heel to 39.5mm, and closed the gap on the offset from 8mm to 2mm. It still feels similar to the Velociti Elite v1, but the transitions are more propulsive. The secret is inside the midsole. The full-length carbon-fibre plate is updated with a scooped shape to encourage faster turnover.

Despite having no outsole, the Velociti Elite 2 has reliable traction, too. The midfoot and heel are fairly narrow, though, so it’s more

Weight232g (UK size 7)
Stack height39.5mm (heel), 37.5mm (forefoot)
Heel-to-toe drop2mm

Content from Runner’s World UK

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